Vatican Envoy Accused of Sex Abuse Is Dead
Jozef Wesolowski was to be first high-ranking official tried for such crimes
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2015 7:01 AM CDT
This 2013 file photo shows Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, former ambassador to the Dominican Republic, in Santo Domingo.   (AP Photo/Manuel Diaz, File)

(Newser) – Jozef Wesolowski will never see his day in court. The 67-year-old ex-envoy for the Vatican to the Dominican Republic, who was awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing children there, died today of apparent natural causes, the Vatican reports via the AP. His body was found in the room at the Vatican where he's been holed up on house arrest, and a Vatican prosecutor has mandated an autopsy. Wesolowski was hauled back to the Vatican from the DR two years ago when reports started emerging in Dominican media that he was abusing shoeshine boys in Santo Domingo, luring them by dressing "in layman's clothes, [donning] a baseball cap, and [visiting] a beachfront area known to be frequented by impoverished child prostitutes," per Christian Today. After he was arrested and defrocked in 2014, it was also discovered he possessed large quantities of child porn—even while at the Vatican.

Wesolowski was set to go before a Vatican tribunal on July 11, but he fell ill right before the trial and had to be hospitalized, notes the Guardian. A new trial date had not yet been set. Why this trial would've been a big deal: Wesolowski, the first Vatican official to face criminal charges at the Holy See for sexually abusing minors, was expected to be made an example of by Pope Francis, who has promised to punish church officials who've either abused children or helped cover for those who did, per the AP. The trial also would have been notable because Wesolowski was considered a direct rep of the pope and had been ordained by Pope John Paul II. (The UN ripped into the Vatican last year for not fully addressing sex abuse issues.)